As the government formation process in Iraq nears the constitutional deadline, the top United Nations envoy to the country today encouraged all political parties to proceed in a spirit of compromise and quickly finalise negotiations.
“I encourage the Iraqi political leaders to finalise the government formation process within the constitutional timeline, and to ensure a fair representation of women and minority communities in the new government,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Nickolay Mladenov.
“Forming a new and inclusive government that has wide national support is critical to the future of the country,” he stressed.
The envoy underscored that none of the security, social or political challenges facing Iraq can be resolved without a new administration that can bring the country together, as well as continued international support against the threat from the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“Today the world is watching Iraq and stands ready to extend immediate support to the new government in its efforts to address the challenges ahead,” he stated.
In Geneva today, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it has received reports of the ongoing systematic targeting of non-Sunni ethnic and religious groups, through killings, abductions, destruction of property and places of religious and cultural significance by ISIL.
It has also received increasing reports of ISIL killing Sunni individuals who refuse to pledge allegiance to them, OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters.
“We reiterate that such grave human rights violations, including the systematic targeting of men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation, likely amount to a crime against humanity,” Ms. Shamdasani stated.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that while it is continuing a major aid operation for almost half a million displaced people in northern Iraq, pressure on accommodation remains acute.
“Many schools are still being used to house the displaced. In addition, there is urgent need to reinforce tents and other housing in preparation for the coming winter,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva.
UNHCR’s air, road and sea aid push launched on 20 August has included tents, but more are needed. Over the next few days, 10 more aid flights will be arriving at Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, where an estimated 850,000 people have sought safety after fleeing their homes.
The new airlift will bring close to 40,000 blankets, 10,000 kitchen sets, and almost 18,000 plastic sheets. Since mid-June, UNHCR and its partners have provided more than 100,000 mattresses, 10,000 family tents and 40,000 jerry cans and tens of thousands of other items.
“At present, new displacement has diminished,” Mr. Edwards said. “However, with ongoing fighting in Ninewa, Diyala, Anbar, and Saladin governorates, the situation remains unpredictable.
“Aid needs remain far-reaching; in addition to shelter and emergency items – food, medical care and education are priorities,” he added.
UNHCR is also supporting displaced people in central and southern Iraq, where it has reached nearly 120,000 people across 15 governorates since January. Emergency aid kits have been pre-positioned in case of further need in Amerli in Salah al-Din governorate.
Currently, there are eight camps across Iraq, housing close to 40,000 displaced people. UNHCR is providing help, including tents and emergency aid. Nineteen other camps are under consideration, being designed and constructed by regional authorities and aid agencies.
UNHCR noted, however, that most of the displaced are not living in camps, and many are still in collective centres, unfinished buildings, mosques, churches and schools. More than 2,000 schools countrywide are being used to house the displaced, making it likely that the start of the school year, currently scheduled to begin in less than two weeks, will be delayed.
Across Iraq, an estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced since January. They are spread around some 1,500 sites across the country. Iraq is also hosting 215,000 Syrian refugees.